A lot of noise is generated in Kerala every time the petrol and diesel prices go up. However, does most of the Malayalees care about the price rise except for the political rhetoric generated over that?
The only section that cares is the ordinary office goes who don’t get a vehicle allowance. However, even for the government employee, today’s price hike came with an announcement of seven per cent dearness allowance with retrospective effect from January.
The worst affected is those living below the poverty line. However they don’t often realise the impact of petrol prices when announced. They feel it in the form of bus fare hikes later, and all round increase in prices which they may fail to connect to the fuel costs.
For the neo-rich, it does not matter. There is enough money in their hands to burn off petrol and diesel whatever be the costs. One sees a few drivers in posh vehicles parked on the Secretariat lawns every day burning away diesel to run the air-conditioners while their bosses or relatives visit ministers and officials at the Secretariat. (Those in the Secretariat do not care though it pollutes the area.)
For many, money is pouring in from Gulf countries. The value of rupee has plummeted, and that means increased incomes for those at home. So, who care about the petrol price hikes? The Malappuram district, which was one of the most backward districts in the State, now sports large vehicle show rooms and shopping centres. The largest show rooms of car dealers could now be seen along the highway between Angadippuram and Malappuram. The Muslim League Ministers have seen to it that the road network improved.
However, the road network across the State is far from sufficient for increasing number of passenger car units. One sees large vehicles transporting cars blocking the highways and the problem is going to increase with increasing container traffic from Vallarpadam and Vizhinjam port (when realized).
Proposals for expressway and widening of major highways are in limbo. Other works like the Kerala Road Development Project are in limbo. So, also are the proposals to improve the public transport system, especially the rail network including metros and mono rails.
Kerala will be burning away more petrol in the coming years as the traffic slows down along all major roads and highways. The government does see the problem, but is failing to act. Well, in Pathanamthitta, they want an airport.